Yesterday I had the simple task of needing to turn my truck around. About half way through my misadventure, this question struck me.
When is something free more work than it’s worth?
Over the years, this simple question has popped into my head a lot more frequently than I would care to admit. This is partly because my wife and I generally try to live life as frugally as possible. Frugality often leads me to either be in a location that makes little to no sense, or spending all of my free time doing stuff I would much rather not be doing.
So how did I end up here again? We left Alaska in September with the goal of spending about a month hiking and photographing southern Utah in November. The month of October was booked solid with 27 jump rope shows in 10 days, trying to get a 1932 delivery sedan running, and flying to all sorts of random locations to do so. Since most of the work was on the East Coast or Midwest, it made no sense to drive (and I really like the fresh smell of airplane). Finding an inexpensive (and safe) spot to park the Wandering Turtle was quickly taken care of when Qale said we could park it at his place in Oregon.
In the past, we have parked there as it is quite secluded and safe. This time my wife picked a new spot on the property to park so it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Alicia gets a hundred Peter Points for finding a spot that would never be disturbed and was very safe. I should have known that there could be some issues when she called and said that she had run the trailer into a tree and it was stuck. She didn’t have time to fix the problem at drop off so I would get to handle it when I went to pick it up.
My wife was not exaggerating when she said it was stuck
I sometimes assume that Alicia exaggerates a bit when she’s stressed out. Maybe she did hit a tree, but it’s not that big of a deal. She really did mean it this time. Thankfully she had the foresight to order a chainsaw and have it delivered to Qale’s house.
I arrived in the dark since I had just flown from Pensacola to Portland. I swapped out 2 dead truck batteries and the following morning had a simple goal: Turn my truck around and start driving down the Oregon coast. Simple was a bit of a pipe dream as it turns out.
I rolled out of bed and grabbed the brand new (very cheap) chainsaw from the garage. This was where I noticed my first problem of the day. There was no chain oil. This posed a problem since my only transportation at the moment was lodged quite firmly in a grove of trees. Qale has an ample supply of WD-40 as that is the duct-tape of the liquid world. It survived my limited usage, but did produce a fair amount of smoke that I suspect the manufacturer would not warranty. I would suggest buying some proper oil if you have need to use a chainsaw.
The second problem was noticed when I went to put some gas in the chainsaw. Nothing came out of our 14 gallon portable tank. I really thought it was at least half full when we left. Since it’s a gravity feed tank I was able to set it on top of a ladder, do a gasoline dance, and will enough out for the day’s work.
I was told that I had carte blanche with removing whatever trees and bushes I wanted
Since I didn’t want to destroy the chainsaw (or run out of gas), I decided to limit my tree cutting to the bare necessities. I went about cataloging the most important trees to eliminate before I could even begin to turn my truck around. The most obvious one was the tree that Alicia had run the trailer into. We have a rain gutter above the side door and it was pretty banged up from where the collision occurred. I was quite amazed that she had managed to get the camper past there without any damage.
Now that I think about it…how did she do it? She was able to get an 11 foot tall camper past a tree, but a 10 foot tall trailer got stuck. Maybe she has some sort of special teleportation skills that only applies to things she touches. Kind of like when she asks for chapstick and I spend 5 minutes searching every nook of her bag with no luck. She reaches in and it magically appears in her fingers. I think I may be on to something…
Anyway, that tree needed to go. There were also a couple trees in front of the truck that needed some chainsaw loving. So I gave it to them. If you had been there watching (like a complete jerk since you didn’t offer to help), you would probably have enjoyed my panic moments. These occurred when I was cutting through the trees and then suddenly realize that they were falling onto my truck instead of away from it. This happened with every tree. You would think that I would learn, but you would be wrong.
Thankfully the trees weren’t super thick so I was able to arrest their movement before something bad happened. Unfortunately, they were too big for me to push over. The only things I had in my trailer that were any use in this situation were a bunch of tie down straps. Using my superior intellect, I figured out that if I strapped them to another tree I could pull them the direction I wanted them to go. However, I couldn’t be bothered doing this before the tree would start to fall onto my truck. Go figure.
Now it was time to turn my truck around
There was a small clearing that my wife had been trying to reach. It looked like there would be enough room to do a 50 point turn and be off on my adventure. This part didn’t quite work out that well either. Big trucks don’t have the greatest turning radius. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty decent at backing a trailer up. However, there’s only so much one can do when you don’t have any room to work with.
After 10 failed attempts at getting the trailer to go where I wanted, I decided to try plan B. Hook the trailer up to the front of the truck!
About 2 years ago I added a 300 pound steel bumper to the front of the truck. On top of protecting the truck from hitting suicidal animals and looking awesomer, it has a more practical purpose. It added a 2 inch hitch mount to the front of my truck. I don’t use it often for moving my trailer around (this was actually the first time). The big plus is that I can jack-knife my trailer way further than I can when it’s attached to the back bumper. The only reason I got it turned around was due to that feature.
In the end, I did something like a 2,000 point turn before I finally got my truck pointing the right way to leave. It was over 3.5 hours of tedious work that could easily have been avoided if I had just paid something to store my rig in a supervised area. I might have actually saved money because I wouldn’t have had to buy a chainsaw.
This was definitely one of those cases where “free” wasn’t really worth it. I really need to start factoring what my time and effort are worth. Maybe free isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? If history is any indication, I will most likely forget the pain until I do it all over again.